Okay, fist things first.
I thoroughly enjoy carrying a drunken showgirl through a gauntlet of undead and also duct taping hunting knives to boxing gloves in order to eviscerate said undead. In other words, I am a fan of the quirky setting and gameplay of Dead Rising 2. It is good, clean (okay, well, not really clean) fun, and I think a more than fine follow up to the first game.
So, I was more than happy to follow up a recent playthrough of DR 2 with some extended make-shift weapon makin’, zombie mutilatin’ in Case : West, the newest DLC for Dead Rising 2.
The game is clearly fan service, as it manages to clarify which ending is canonical in Dead Rising 2, features Frank West of Dead Rising, also features an additional surprise cameo, and also manages to advance the overarching narrative of the series itself (in other words, fans of the series that are interested in the origins of the zombie plague are probably going to want to see the ending of Case: West).
What I think is interesting about both Case Zero (which PopMatters‘s Tom Cross reviewed very positively a few months ago) and Case West is the way that this DLC is not only fan service but extremely conducive to allowing players unfamiliar with the series or those that have yet to try out the sequel to get a taste of the main game on the cheap (though not quite as cheaply as one could with Case Zero, which would only set you back five bucks).
Tom’s initial description of Case Zero as “just a bit more than a demo and a bit less than what most people would consider to be ‘proper’ DLC” is an equally apt description of Case West (”Dead Rising 2: Case Zero”, PopMatters, 15 September 2010). Like Case Zero, Case West offers a standalone story set in the Dead Rising 2 universe that features similar gameplay to Dead Rising 2, saving survivors from zombie hordes on a deadline with the ability to piece together make shift weapons out of various objects found in the environment. In this case, the game chronologically follows the plot of Dead Rising 2, rather than serving as something like a prequel, as Case Zero did. Basically, this allows anyone without a Dead Rising 2 disk to get a taste of what the game has to offer before investing the $60 needed to get a copy of the main game. In that sense, it is as Tom says of Zero, potentially a cheap, more fully featured, and more fully plotted demo.
“No disk required” DLC seems very smart in this regard, and I think Capcom has come up with a really clever way of broadening the audience for their product by simply getting non-DR 2 disk owners to get a crack at their world. Of course, I suspect that Zero is the more effective marketing tool than West, given its prequel status and cheaper price, but by using a familiar face from the first game to drag in anyone that, perhaps, hadn’t quite signed on to the newest title, West still has some of that potential. Still though, fan service and extending the story a bit remains the dominant interests of this expansion, so the slightly elevated price tag and its “sequel” status are likely going to mostly appeal to the ready made fans of Dead Rising 2.
As far as the content goes, this is a decent follow up for anyone still in need of a little Dead Rising 2 action. Seeing Frank again is fun and his help (in single or multiplayer modes) makes the game generally a bit easier. Fundamental gameplay is in place with a few new make-shift weapons to see, and carving through the undead is still fun and relevant. The main thing that the follow up fails to give a taste of is some of the tone of the previous two games (especially the second one).
Fortune City is a gaudy and salacious environment, well suited to the kind of gratuitous B-movie aesthetic of Dead Rising, things like the aforementioned drunken showgirl episode or the ludicrous make-shift weapons and their tremendously gorey employment on the bodies of the undead. Case West takes place in a laboratory facility, and while it includes gore and then more gore, it is a more timid, tamed atmosphere. As a lab setting might suggest, it is a little more sterile, a lot less sexy. In short, it isn’t quite as overtly absurd as Dead Rising 2, which (for me at least) is a very big part of the fun of the game.
Again, if you are interested in the mythos of the game or if you just really want more Dead Rising-style play, this is probably a must have. It is a good game that will take an afternoon to get through and maybe a few more playthroughs to perfect the salvation of all of the survivors in the Phenotrans labs. It is on the easier side for a Dead Rising game though, and it definitely tones down the glitz and flash that makes playing a Dead Rising title a truly excessively guilty pleasure. If you’re going to feel guilty about wading through carnage and tastelessness, I say crank it to 11 and be damned. Case West simmers, rather than sizzles.